Russia-Ukraine live news: Evacuations from Sumy, Irpin under way | Russia-Ukraine war News

  • Ukrainian officials say civilians are being evacuated from the besieged areas of Irpin, near the capital, Kyiv, and northeastern Sumy.
  • Russia has declared another ceasefire and says a string of humanitarian corridors have been opened.
  • Moscow says evacuees will be allowed to travel to safer places in Ukraine after Kyiv rejected an earlier plan to funnel civilians to Russia and Belarus.
  • UN refugee chief says the number of people fleeing Russia’s offensive has reached two million.

INTERACTIVE Russia-Ukraine map Who controls what in Ukraine DAY 12

Here are all the latest updates:

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UN refugee chief says two million people have fled Ukraine

The head of the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, says two million people have now fled Ukraine in search of safety elsewhere.

The number of people fleeing Russia’s onslaught is expected to continue to climb quickly.

UN rights chief decries clampdown on anti-war protests in Russia

Michelle Bachelet, the UN’s human rights chief, has warned Moscow’s response to widespread demonstrations against its invasion signals a narrowing of freedoms in the country.

“I remain concerned about the use of repressive legislation that impedes the exercise of civil and political rights and criminalising non-violent behaviour,” Bachelet told the Human Rights Council in Geneva via video link.

More than 13,500 people have been arrested for taking part in a string of anti-war protests held in dozens of cities throughout Russia since it began its offensive, according to protest monitoring group OVD-Info.

Humanitarian corridors a ‘confused picture’: AJE correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull, reporting from the city of Lviv, in western Ukraine, has described the situation with humanitarian corridors as a “confused picture”.

“The Ukrainians say just one route, out of Sumy, [has been setup] as part of a sort of negotiated agreement on routes of evacuation,” Hull said.

“The whole humanitarian coridoor issue has been rather foggy up to now … two negotiated attempts at corridors out of Mariupol and Volnovakha fell apart on Saturday and Sunday with each side blaming the other for the breakdown of those,” he added.

“Then on Monday there was this unilateral offer by Russia to offer a series of routes out of big, populated and bombarded urban centres – places like Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol and Sumy – [but] nothing came of that.

“They were routes that led directly into Russia and into Russian-allied Belarus, and denounced as cynical, unacceptable and ‘immoral’ by the Ukrainian side.”

Ukrainian officials say civilians being evacuated from Sumy, Irpin

Ukrainian officials say they have begun evacuating civilians from the northeastern city of Sumy and from the town of Irpin, near the capital Kyiv.

The evacuations began after Russian and Ukrainian officials agreed to establish “humanitarian corridors” to allow civilians out of some towns and cities besieged by Russian forces.

Oleksiy Kuleba, the governor of the Kyiv region, said more than 150 people had been evacuated as of 9:30am local time (07:30 GMT).

Footage shared by the Ukrainian State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection also showed what it said was the “first stage” of evacuations taking place from Sumy.

Russia opens ‘humanitarian corridors’ from Kyiv, four other Ukraine cities

Russia’s defence ministry says it has opened a series of “humanitarian corridors” via which people can be evacuated from Kyiv and several other Ukrainian cities, according to a report by the country’s Interfax news agency.

Defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said evacuation routes would also be set up from Chenihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv and Mariupol, Interfax reported.

Russia declared a ceasefire from 10am Moscow time (07:00 GMT) to coincide with the opening of the corridors.

The move came after Ukraine on Monday rejected Russian proposals to evacuate Ukrainians via exit routes that mostly led to Russia or Belarus.

UN warns second wave of refugees will be more vulnerable

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has warned a second wave of refugees from Ukraine will follow the first mass exodus from the country, with those escaping later likely to be even more vulnerable.

“If the war continues we will start seeing people that have no resources and no connections,” UNHCR head Filippo Grandi told a news conference.

“That will be a more complex situation to manage for European countries going forward, and there will need to be even more solidarity by everybody in Europe and beyond,” he added.

Polish Border Guard says 1.2 million people have crossed from Ukraine

About 1.2 million people have now fled into Poland from Ukraine since Russia launched its offensive, according to the Polish Border Guard.

A total of 141,500 people entered the country from its eastern neighbour on Monday, according to the agency, fewer than on Sunday.

Russian aviation faces wipeout

Russia’s invasion has resulted in its airlines being banned from European, American and Canadian airspace, leaving the country with leased aircraft it cannot use, and scuttling aerospace industry partnerships with the West.

Even flights to friendly countries like China are in doubt due to the international community’s ostracisation of the country’s aviation sector, according to aviation analysts.

Read more here.

An Aeroflot Airbus A320-200 aircraft takes off at Sheremetyevo International Airport outside Moscow, Russia, June 10, 2018.
Russia’s aviation sector is facing crippling international isolation [File: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]

UK’s Wallace says Putin is a ‘spent force’

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has used some harsh words to describe Putin.

“Whatever … happens, President Putin is a spent force in the world and he is done, his army is done … and he needs to recognise that,” Wallace told Times Radio.

“The international community has united against him … he is in a position where he is going to cause huge economic hardship to his people.”

The British Minister of Defense Ben Wallace arrives at Kastellet during a visit to Copenhagen, Denmark December 8, 2021.
British Minister Wallace says the international community is united against Putin [File: Reuters]

Russia’s Gazprom shipments via Ukraine unchanged: Report

Russian natural gas company Gazprom continues gas shipments via Ukraine at the same volume of 109.5 million cubic metres a day, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.

Russia supplies about 40 percent of Europe’s gas.

Biden thanks South Korea for joining sanctions against Russia

US President Joe Biden has sent a letter of thanks to South Korean President Moon Jae-in for joining financial sanctions and export controls against Russia.

Biden added that the move sent a strong message of support for Ukraine, according to Moon’s office.

Joe Biden
Biden seeks to increase international support for sanctions against Russia [File: Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via AP]

Russia warns of oil import ban on Europe

Russia has warned that it might stop the flow of gas through pipelines from Russia to Germany in response to Berlin’s decision last month to halt the opening of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

“We have every right to take a matching decision and impose an embargo on gas pumping through the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said.

Russia supplies about 40 percent of Europe’s gas.

Ukraine city struggling to feed people fleeing war

Lviv’s mayor says local authorities are struggling to feed and house the tens of thousands of people who have fled to the city.

“We really need support,” Andriy Sadovyi said, citing the need for equipment including large tents and kitchen supplies.

More than 200,000 Ukrainians displaced from their homes elsewhere in the country are now residing in Lviv, filling up sports halls, schools, hospitals and church buildings. The historical city, once popular with tourists, had a population of 700,000 people prior to Russia’s invasion.

Germany to host G7 meeting over food security

Germany will host a virtual meeting of agricultural ministers from G7 countries on Friday to discuss the effect of the invasion on global food security and how to best stabilise food markets, the government says.

“The provision of foodstuffs in Germany and the European Union is safe but greater shortages can be expected in some countries outside the EU – especially where scarcity already reigns today due to issues like drought,” German Agriculture Minister Cem Oezdemir said.

“Price hikes for agricultural products cannot be excluded in industrialised nations either.”

Estee Lauder to suspend all commercial activities in Russia

Estee Lauder Companies Inc says it decided to suspend all commercial activities in Russia, including closing all its stores in the country.

The company will also suspend brand sites and shipments to its retailers in Russia, it added.

Second Russian general killed in war: Ukraine

Ukraine’s military intelligence says Ukrainian forces have killed Major General Vitaly Gerasimov near the besieged city of Kharkiv – the second Russian senior commander to die in the invasion.

Gerasimov, first deputy commander of Russia’s 41st Army, was killed on Monday, Ukraine’s defence ministry said in a statement. Another Russian general, Andrei Sukhovetsky, also a deputy commander of the 41st Army, was reported killed at the end of February.

Ukraine says its forces have killed more than 11,000 Russian troops. Russia has confirmed about 500 losses. Neither side has disclosed Ukrainian casualties

Rating agency Fitch suspends commercial operations in Russia

Fitch has become the second major credit rating firm to suspend its commercial operations in Russia, saying its analysts elsewhere would provide its coverage instead.

Fitch and Moody’s, which also suspended operations in Russia, downgraded Russia’s sovereign rating by a record-equalling six notches earlier this month, warning the West’s sanctions had raised the risk of a default.

Fitch said in a statement the decision involved credit ratings and some other services it provides, adding it would comply with “all applicable sanctions” and support its Russia-based staff.

INTERACTIVE - Sanctions on Russia SWIFT payment network

Japan freezes assets of more Russians, Belarusian officials

Japan has frozen the assets of an additional 32 Russian and Belarusian officials and oligarchs, the Ministry of Finance has announced.

Japan also is banning exports of Russia-bound oil refinery equipment and Belarus-bound general purpose items that can be used by its military, the ministry said.

Ukrainian FM Kuleba announces meeting with Russian counterpart

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says he will propose direct talks between the Ukrainian and Russian presidents when he meets with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Turkey on Thursday.

“We want talks between the president of Ukraine and Vladimir Putin since he is the one who makes the final decisions,” Kuleba said on Ukrainian television after a conversation late Monday with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“Grateful to the U.S. for standing by Ukraine,” Kuleba said on Twitter. “We are coordinating intensively on crucial further steps to increase pressure on Russia.”

Russia says ceasefire, evacuations to begin Tuesday

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia has told a UN Security Council (UNSC) meeting his country will observe a ceasefire on Tuesday at 10am Moscow time (07:00 GMT) and open humanitarian corridors to evacuate citizens from Kyiv and several other cities.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had rejected earlier proposals to evacuate Ukrainian citizens into what he called “occupied territory” in Russia and Belarus.

“This proposal doesn’t have any demands about the citizens being sent necessarily to Russia, into Russian territory,” Nebenzia said. “There’s also evacuation offered towards Ukrainian cities to the west of Kyiv, and ultimately it will be the choice of the people themselves where they want to be evacuated to.”

INTERACTIVE- Where are Ukrainians fleeing to DAY 12

World Bank approves $723m in loans, grants for Ukraine

The World Bank says its executive board approved a $723m package of loans and grants for Ukraine, providing government budget support.

The package includes a $350m loan supplement to a prior loan, augmented by about $139m through guarantees from the Netherlands and Sweden, the bank said in a statement.

The package also includes $134m in grants from Britain, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania and Iceland, as well as parallel financing of $100m from Japan.

Ukrainian officials: Russia stepped up shelling of major cities

In Kyiv, soldiers and volunteers have built hundreds of checkpoints to protect the city of nearly four million, local officials say, with Mayor Vitali Klitschko noting that fierce battles continue in the region, notably around Bucha, Hostomel, Vorzel and Irpin.

Russian forces launched hundreds of missiles and artillery attacks, dropping powerful bombs on residential areas of Chernihiv, north of Kyiv, Ukrainian officials said. But a long, Russian armoured column threatening Kyiv remained stalled.

Mykolaiv in the south and Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, were also shelled. Ukrainian forces were also defending Odesa, Ukraine’s largest port city, from Russian ships, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich said.

INTERACTIVE- Ukraine main population centres 2021

What’s a no-fly zone and why did NATO say no?

The Ukrainian government has urged the US-led alliance to enforce a no-fly zone over the country, saying it is necessary to protect Ukrainian civilians from Russian shelling, but the Biden administration has ruled out such a move.

Officials and experts warn of spiralling escalation if the US gets directly involved in the war.

Read more here.

US jet in mid-air
A NATO-enforced no-fly zone over Ukraine could lead to military confrontation with Russia, officials and analysts have warned [File: Joseph Barron/US Air Force via AP]

Russia recruiting Syrians to fight in Ukraine: Pentagon

Russia is recruiting Syrian and other foreign fighters as it ramps up its assault on Ukraine, the Pentagon says.

Moscow entered the Syrian civil war in 2015 on the side of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and, now, US Department of Defense officials say Putin is “on a recruiting mission” to bring some of those fighters into Ukraine, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“We do believe that the accounts of them – the Russians – seeking Syrian fighters to augment their forces in Ukraine, we believe there’s truth to that,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told journalists when asked about the reports.

Russian troops blocked evacuation attempts, opened fire, Ukraine’s UN ambassador says

Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN says Russia blocked “numerous attempts” to evacuate civilians from the suburbs of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Donetsk and Kherson.

“They denied access of international organisations to provide humanitarian assistance to the most affected places,” Sergiy Kyslytsya said during a meeting of the UNSC.

“Russian troops opened fire on evacuees and evacuation vehicles, shelled the roads allocated for humanitarian corridors.”

He said Russia shelled roads near Mariupol and blew up a railway in Irpin in the Kyiv region, adding that it would be “pure hypocrisy” to push Ukrainians to Belarus or to Russia while Europe’s borders are open to Ukrainian refugees.

Czech president to award state honour to Ukraine’s president

Czech President Milos Zeman, long sympathetic to Moscow, says he will award the highest state honours to Zelenskyy for his bravery and courage in the face of Russia’s invasion. Zeman has been supportive of Ukraine, saying the war was provoked by Russian aggression.

He said a parliamentary deputy had proposed awarding Zelenskyy the highest Czech honours, and he agreed.

“[B]ecause the Ukrainian president has shown courage and bravery, and although the United States offered him an evacuation, he stayed in the capital of his country, from where he is leading its defence.”

Zelenskyy says Russian forces scuppering evacuations

Zelenskyy has accused the Russian army of derailing the civilian evacuations through humanitarian corridors agreed after talks with Moscow.

“There was an agreement on humanitarian corridors. Did that work? Russian tanks worked in its place, Russian Grads [multiple rocket launchers], Russian mines,” Zelenskyy said in a video posted on Telegram.

Bank of Portugal tells lenders to freeze accounts of Russian oligarchs

Portugal’s central bank says it instructed lenders to freeze the accounts of people and entities targeted by sanctions against Russia.

The Bank of Portugal said it had initially identified a “very small number” of sanctioned people and entities with Portuguese bank accounts but assessment efforts were continuing.

In a statement, the central bank said lenders were told to start freezing bank accounts on February 25 and to monitor the list of sanctioned people and entities so they can act when and if new names are added.

Ukrainian civilians must be allowed safe passage: UN aid chief

Civilians stuck in areas of active hostilities in Ukraine should be allowed safe passage in any direction they choose, UN aid chief Martin Griffiths has said during a UNSC meeting.

“The parties must take constant care to spare civilians and civilian homes and infrastructure in their military operations,” Griffiths said.

Ukrainian cities under attack – including Kharkiv, Mariupol and Melitopol – desperately needed aid and medical supplies, he added.

War not going as Russia planned: UK ambassador to US

Karen Pierce, the UK ambassador to the US, says the invasion of Ukraine is not going as planned for Russia

“If I were an adviser to President Putin, I would be interested in the fact that because of this invasion of Ukraine, more and more countries want a relationship with NATO. NATO members have been brought closer together,” Pierce told Al Jazeera in an interview.

“So if I sat in the Kremlin, I don’t know from a Russian perspective that this is turning out the way they want. And their forces are not doing as well as they had planned in Ukraine itself.”

Putin says Russia will not send conscripts to Ukraine

Putin says he will not send conscripts or reservists to fight in Ukraine and that “professionals” fulfilling “fixed objectives” were leading the war.

“Conscripted soldiers are not participating and will not participate in the fighting. There will not be an additional conscription of reservists either,” Putin said in a televised address.

US envoy to UN calls on Russia to guarantee humanitarian access

The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, has called for a pause in hostilities to allow civilians to leave conflict areas in Ukraine.

Speaking to the UNSC, Thomas-Greenfield called for Russia’s “firm, clear, public and unequivocal commitment” to allow and facilitate immediate, unhindered humanitarian access for humanitarian partners in Ukraine.

No major Russian progress in north and northeast Ukraine: Pentagon

Russian forces have made major progress in the north and northeast of Ukraine in the last few days, the Pentagon said.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Russian troops took the city of Kherson and were attempting to encircle Mariupol, but were not in control of it.

Kirby also said Russia’s move to longer-range attacks had increased civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure.

Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Ukraine-Russia crisis.

Read all the updates from Monday, March 7, here.